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Meteors, Asteroids and Comets
Earth captures a minimoon
03/29/12

 

The path of a simulated minimoon that is temporarily captured by Earth. The object approaches Earth from the right along the yellow line and continues on its trajectory along the orange path and finally escapes capture along the red path to the upper right. The size of Earth and the Moon are not to scale but the size of the minimoon’s path is to scale in the Earth-Moon system. Inset: Radar image of near-Earth asteroid 1999 JM8 made with NASA’s Goldstone Solar System Radar in California and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico by a team of astronomers led by Dr. Lance Benner of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Minimoons are captured from the much larger population of near-Earth asteroids that pass close to Earth. This two-mile-diameter asteroid is more than a thousand times larger than the biggest minimoons, but it shows the irregular shape and pockmarked surface expected on the much smaller minimoons. Credit: K. Teramura, UH IfA



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